School Librarians of Aotearoa: Kristy Wilson
Kristy Wilson has been the School Librarian for Decile 1 Porirua College, three days a week for the past four years. More recently, she has added work at the Decile 10 Adventure School, 10 hours a week.
Librarian Kristy Wilson
I work 18 hours (three days) as Library Manager at Porirua College. This is a decile 1 co-ed school of 500 predominantly Pasifika and Māori students in Porirua, Wellington. I’ve been here for the last four years.
At the start of last year I also took on the 10 hour Librarian role at Adventure School in Whitby, a decile 10 full primary with around 500 students.
I was a stay-at-home mum for over eight years while I raised my four kids. My oldest was in reading recovery at school so I spent a whole year researching engaging reads. He’d always been read to and I do believe that everyone develops in their own time so I wasn’t worried about him learning to read. What I was concerned with, was that reading didn’t become this pressured situation and be seen as a chore. He needed fun, interesting and engaging reads where the focus was on the joy of reading not the how-to-read.
He’d always been read to and I do believe that everyone develops in their own time so I wasn’t worried about him learning to read. What I was concerned with, was that reading didn’t become this pressured situation and be seen as a chore.
So when I started thinking about what I wanted to retrain in, a school librarian ticked so many boxes for me. I’ve always loved reading and books, constantly learning new things, along with customer service and marketing. Combined with school hours was a great match.
Every child deserves to have memories with books
I think every child deserves to have memories with books. Not only is there amazing escapism with reading, I love the moral dilemmas or being able to experience and analyse a situation, and explore different endings, allowing us to see how scenarios play out without ever being in danger.
Books help us to be better people, to be more empathetic, more aware and more interesting.
I love the sharing that happens when reading with others. Cuddling with my kids and that time of relaxing and bonding and sharing has been so good for our relationships, especially now they are in their tweens. It’s great to have another connection without pressure where we can read the same book together or separately and talk about it. Those conversations are everything in staying linked with them and I want to help foster that with other children and parents. You are never too old to be read to!
Cuddling with my kids and that time of relaxing and bonding and sharing has been so good for our relationships, especially now they are in their tweens.
Sharing books through read-alouds or book club all-read selections, its is always fascinating to hear other people’s thoughts. To be challenged or shown a different perspective can be so rewarding.
All in a day's work
At Adventure School, I take eight classes a day in 30 minute slots. I read a book to the class based on a topic or do a quick library activity, talk books and then help students find books to take out. Once books are returned and new ones issued and new books reserved I wave goodbye and repeat with the next class.
Morning tea is a chance to connect with the teachers, and informally catch up on what topics their students, who follow a play-based curriculum, are involved in currently and anything that has been going on.
I schedule out a 30 minute dedicated admin time just before lunch where I often try and catalogue new books quickly, order books or work on whatever project I’m currently doing to make the books easier to find for everyone on the shelves or the webOPAC.
Fiction shelves at Adventure School
At lunchtime my library leaders come and help shelf books and tidy the library. I also get them to help with displays, as well as label books and cut duraseal so I have a stash of books to duraseal when I’m waiting for classes that run late. There are five different library leaders that come on the days I’m there so I often save up different little jobs for them to do. Yay for willing hands!
At Porirua College, my day is very different. I start by looking at the class schedule to see what library and computer bookings are taken and then plan my day around that, first ensuring that the desktop computers are working, and the library shelves are tidy. I check emails and get up to date with library and book happenings.
The library and the computers in the library can be booked so we can have two classes at once. Some days are busy, some days are quieter. I will do book talks to English classes, and help with research if needed.
Porirua College non-fiction section
In between classes I catalogue, research new books, plan and implement displays and curate resources for classes. Every term, I have a number of projects I focus on. This term we focused on audio books for ESOL classes, more positive overdue policies and lunchtime activities.
Lunchtimes are spent roaming the library, shelving books, and checking in with students. We’ve just added cards and board games and a jigsaw for winter. It’s been fun seeing the students try something different and have fun that is not centred around the computers.
I’d love to see more Pasifika authors writing books for our children and teens. Lani Young Wendt’s Telesā series and David Riley’s Samoan Heroes series are loved by our students at Porirua College. It’s such a shame that these have both had to start out as self-published ventures.
Two different spaces, two different arrangements
At Adventure School, due to needing more class space means the library is 'for now' housed in a storage room off the hall. It is a small space, where I am enjoying the challenge of still making it user-friendly and appealing.
Due to space, along one long wall we have all our Fiction. The top two shelves in red are Senior Fiction (Year 7-8), and the next three green levels are Junior Fiction. Underneath this is our picture book wooden boxes. I’ve recently added plastic containers in the fiction section to house large series. This clears the shelves for students to easily see some of the stand-alone books that can otherwise get lost. There is not a lot of room for face out books (sob), so I do lots of book talks and have started adding genre stickers to new books to aid students in finding similar books they’re enjoying. I also put up ‘If you liked X, Try Y’ displays that visually help students with some other book options if I’m not in the library, or if I’m busy with other students.
There is not a lot of room for face out books (sob), so I do lots of book talks and have started adding genre stickers to new books to aid students in finding similar books they’re enjoying.
At the start of this year I reorganised the early reader section. Since starting in primary, I’ve always wanted to have a Doll’s House book hospital, but space has been an issue. When a three-tier rotating dolls house was offered for free on a Facebook buy and sell page, I snapped it up. The roof is now the ‘book hospital’ where books wait for me to mend them. The other rooms house our beginning to read books in containers.
Book Hospital at Adventure School
I also started a sophisticated picture book section to make finding certain books easier for our teachers and older students.
The non-fiction section is also a work in progress. I’ve managed to gain some extra space on the shelves and sort some of the smaller books or junior targeted non-fiction into black containers. Very popular Non-Fiction sections are separated and put in face-out shelving bins underneath the windows. This includes, Graphic Novels, Joke Books, Crafts & Drawing, Handbooks and Guides and Cook Books.
At Porirua College we have a lovely big, bright space. Fiction books are along the walls and our Non-Fiction books are on diagonal shelves in the middle of our space. Near our couches we have our face out graphic novels, manga and quick read sections for easy browsing.
Last year, in liaison with the Māori HOD, we established Te Kāhui Mātauranga Māori, and this is where all the library's Māori resources are brought together in one central place.
Te Kāhui Mātauranga Māori
My biggest win, apart from adding a number of relaxing areas with second hand couches, was to change the top and bottom shelves of our Fiction and Non-Fiction to face out displays. For the price of buying new triangle brackets, it was a relatively inexpensive fix. Study tables are now placed down the non-fiction aisles, creating study nooks that are the students’ first pick.
My biggest win, apart from adding a number of relaxing areas with second hand couches, was to change the top and bottom shelves of our Fiction and Non-Fiction to face out displays.
I love changing things up and keeping things fresh so I’m constantly rearranging furniture and shelves and thinking of better ways to display things.
A Book Rock Star
At Porirua College, the wins can be just in getting more students familiar with and using the library, so my latest win targeting this is to use the Epic Reads first 5 newsletter which emails the first chapter of a book. I put this into a google voting form and send to all students, asking them to vote on whether we should get the book into our library. This helps expand my library walls, gives students a voice in book selection and starts conversations around different books.
At Adventure School I haven’t had a huge amount of time to run any major competitions yet. What I do love is book talking new and old books off the shelf and having eager hands all wanting the books. I feel like a ‘book rock star’ where there is real enthusiasm and kudos around reading.
Loving Neal Shusterman
I’m all about Neal Shusterman at the moment. I loved his Unwind trilogy, the Scythe series and am still reeling from finishing The Dry. As he is visiting Wellington in May, it is the perfect opportunity to hook more kids. Engaging with an author often engages students as they realise the processes that go on behind writing a book.
I’ve talked about Neal’s books to everyone - students, staff, friends, personal book clubs, SLANZA meetings, my kids teachers - no-one is safe! So much so that two school librarians have reached out and offered me the chance to take my students to schools hosting him. Never underestimate the power of networking and enthusiasm!
I’ve talked about Neal’s books to everyone - students, staff, friends, personal book clubs, SLANZA meetings, my kids teachers - no-one is safe!
I recently not so subtly gave Unwind to my son to read. He is particularly engaged, because he shares the same name as the protaganist. The plot is that when he turns 16 his parents blindside him into “unwinding” him and donating all his body organs to others. Just a subtle hint for my son to stay on my good side - ha!
Kristy Wilson is a school librarian that works with students from Year 1 to Year 13. Her driver is to get the right resources into students and staff hands in creative ways.
Kristy can be found reading on the side-lines of her four school aged kids sports practices, doing housework while listening to audio books, attending way too many bookclub meetings, watching any book made into a movie, curating the free library outside her house and pushing must read books into unsuspecting visitors hands. She is currently building more bookshelves with her long suffering husband.
For some balance Kristy enjoys op-shopping, up-cycling, swimming, yoga and beach holidays. She models her house and libraries on the poet and textile designer William Morris' words 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.'